Archive for February 16th, 2011

1939: The only triple execution in Manitoba

9 comments February 16th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1939, the Canadian province of Manitoba carried out at Headingley Gaol the only triple execution in its history.

Peter Korzenowski and William Kanuka hanged side by side just after midnight that February 16, while their accomplice Dan Prytula waited 14 minutes for his turn on the gallows.

Less than a year before, drunk on moonshine, the trio beat and kicked 81-year-old Anna Cottick to death on her Dauphin-area farm in an attempt to plunder the place of a rumored $1,000. In fact, they only found twenty-three bucks.

According to an article that appeared on the regrettably extinct Manitoba’s Buried History site,

The process of finding enough corroborating evidence to obtain murder convictions was the stuff of modern crime dramas.

As soon as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived at the Cottick farm, members noticed fresh tire tracks entering and leaving the yard. They were tracked three miles west to within 150 yards of Kanuka’s residence, and from there to the Gilbert Plains home of Prytula’s sister. The tire marks were a perfect match to the treads on Prytula’s 1929 Ford. It was confiscated and, while casts were taken of its treads, Prytula was arrested and his blood-stained clothes, boots and three .32 calibre bullets were seized and sent to the RCMP crime lab for testing.

As one group of police officers were arresting Prytula and Korzenowski, another searched the Cottick residence for additional evidence. Almost immediately they noticed what appeared to be fingerprints on the glass smashed by the assailants. Fragments were sent to experts in Winnipeg, along with a window frame and piece of wall where the bullets fired by Korzenowski and Prytula lodged.

The RCMP also searched the residence and yard of Korzenowski, located a few hundred yards from where Kanuka had been staying. There they found the revolvers used in the break-ins, hidden in a pile of stones. Korzenowski was promptly arrested, and three days later he and his two friends were part of an identification line-up paraded in front of the hospital beds of the Cotticks.*

To top all that off, they bugged the men’s jail cell with a dictograph and snared them in several incriminating conversations. Representative remark: the lawyers are so expensive, “No wonder one has to go robbing.”

* Anna’s 91-year-old husband survived the home invasion.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Canada,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Notable Sleuthing,Pelf,Theft

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